For me, songwriting comes from a place of wanting to find the truth in life. Sometimes that truth is so complex and nuanced that it requires a whole song to explain,” shares Maria Maita-Keppeler, the principal songwriter and front person for the Portland, Oregon-based indie rock band MAITA.
The unlikelihood of getting signed as a new artist is seen as a given these days. What’s even more unusual is the prospect of submitting a record with so much impact that it drastically alters the structure of the label in question.
In 2018, Portland band MAITA sent their recently completed record, Best Wishes, to Kill Rock Stars (Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney, the Decemberists etc) which at the time, was headed by Portia Sabin, wife of then-retired label founder Slim Moon. Here’s how Slim remembers hearing MAITA for the first time:
“Put simply, my love of MAITA and my belief in Maria’s genius pulled me back into the record business. When I quit running KRS in 2006 it was important to me that it become 100% Portia’s baby. I never made any suggestions about what artists I thought she should work with. But when Portia played MAITA’s music for me I immediately thought it was so special that I found myself breaking my own 13 year old rule. I told Portia I thought she absolutely should sign them. Next thing I knew, we had agreed not only to sign MAITA, but that I would return to a limited role at KRS in order to shepherd the whole project. It was months later that we learned Portia would be leaving to take over as CEO of The Music Business Association and that I’d be returning as president of the label, as well.”
The album’s first single, “Can’t Blame A Kid”, follows the roots of an old scar back to childhood, when Maria Maita-Keppeler found herself as the “quiet one,” trapped in the shadow of an overwhelming peer.Glide premiered the video for “Can’t Blame A Kid” describing it as “a big indie rock sound infused with a pop-punk edge.”
Maria Maita-Keppeler explains the inspiration behind the song and the video:
“‘Can’t Blame a Kid’ takes a stab at unpacking the insecurities that I’d built up from childhood, zeroing in on a particular relationship that bore a lot of weight on me throughout my adolescence. For many years it was easy for me to blame a lack of confidence and self-worth on this relationship, and writing this song helped me to find resolution by bringing light to the futility of harboring resentment against children, as we all were back in the formative days that inspired the song. It really is fascinating, though unfortunate, that we are often at our most callous at the age when we are also the most fragile.
The video was a lot of fun for me to make. I’d always wanted to make a finger-painting video for this song, something that echoed the wild, colorful, cathartic nature of the song. Shortly before the release of the single, I realized that it was in my power to do so: I had an iPhone camera and a white wall in my basement. I’d never attempted to produce a video before, so I demanded utmost privacy–I didn’t even let anyone enter the room to press the record button. It was liberating to do one 4 minute take and have the video essentially finished. I feel particularly proud of this video considering the meaning behind “Can’t Blame a Kid”. It was empowering to have the opportunity to take ownership of a vision and execute it was on my own, a task that required a degree of self-assuredness and confidence that would have seemed wildly out of reach to my childhood self.”
MAITA’S debut LP, Best Wishes, was produced by Maita-Keppeler and Matthew Zeltzer, and tracked live at the 100-year-old Ok Theatre in Enterprise, Oregon and Room 13 in Portland, Oregon. 2020 tour dates and release details for Best Wishes will be announced soon.